Jack Ross makes stark admission about Sunderland players after embarrassing defeat at Lincoln City
Sunderland produced arguably their worst performance of the Jack Ross era in the dire 2-0 defeat to Lincoln City, a result which saw the Black Cats go eight points behind leaders Ipswich Town.
And Ross didn’t hide his disgust at the performance, while also admitting any criticism coming his or the team’s way was fully justified.
Ross says ultimately the responsibility lies with him and he didn’t shy away from his role in the desperate defeat at Sincil Bank.
An early error from Jon McLaughlin left his side chasing the game and though they were fortunate to see Tyler Walker miss a second half penalty, he scored soon after as the Black Cats suffered a wretched afternoon away from home.
Ross is already under-fire from a large section of the Sunderland fanbase after a start to the campaign which has seen the side draw four and lose two of their opening 11 fixtures.
Reflecting on the defeat at Lincoln, Ross said: “It is not just about not playing well in possession, it is about doing the fundamentals of the game right which is work hard, be physical, be competitive.
"We got absolutely what we deserved from the game.
“That will often be the case [the first 20 minutes] when we come away from home but we have had a lot of experience of that over the last 15-months or so.
“You have to be strong enough to stand up to that, we didn’t do that and then didn’t react to going behind.
“I accept anytime we don’t win a game we have been criticised and I have sometimes been defensive of that and I have been justified.
“But today, any criticism of me or the team, we deserve that. That is nowhere near good enough, not just for Sunderland. For any football team.
“I have managed lot of games now, I have not had many of them in terms of seeing a team so far away from what you need to be to win games.”
Defeat to Michael Appleton’s Lincoln side sees the Black Cats at least three wins away from leaders Ipswich Town heading into a two-week break from League One action after the home game against Fleetwood Town next Saturday was postponed following international call-ups.
When pressed on what it was that led Sunderland to produce such an insipid display, Ross added: “It is one of the simpler ones.
"It is about doing the most obvious and basic part of the game which is the same whether it is amateur, semi-pro or the highest level you can get to.
"It is about being competitive, working hard, running about. It sounds basic but it is true.
“People talk about tactics and system and personnel. You don’t do that part of the game you have no chance. You won’t win games.
“I will always say it is my responsibility, I am the manager. It is my job to motivate and prepare players properly.
“Today, that is not good enough from me then as that team and performance was miles away from being good enough to win the game.”
Sunderland threw bodies forward late on but it was all too little, too late, the visitors suffering another instantly forgettable away day.
A large chunk of Sunderland fans had already left well before the final whistle, with some departing after the second goal went in when there was still half an hour to play. They had seen enough.
Ross added: “Discount the last part of the game, we were throwing bodies forward. The first 70 minutes we were so poor, in and out of possession. That was the most disappointing I have seen us.
“It is very obvious to say we need to be so much better than that to win games in this league.
“That level of performance, overall my responsibility, it wasn’t good enough.”
Five Sunderland players were booked, the lack of discipline another concern for the Black Cats boss who hit out at the ‘cheap cautions’ picked up by his players in the dismal afternoon at Sincil Bank.
Ross said: “It’s easy to do that, as well.
“If you are going to show that you’re committed, do it in the most obvious, basic, way that I have already touched upon, by doing the fundamentals right - not by picking up cheap cautions.
“It’s a reflection of the frustration, but the frustration only comes from not doing the basics right.”
Sunderland are next in action at home to Grimsby Town on Tuesday night in the opening league game of the Leasing.com Trophy, not that Ross was in any mood to think about that game in the immediate aftermath of the Lincoln humiliation.
Sunderland reached the final of that competition last season when they were beaten by Portsmouth on penalties, when it was called the Checkatrade Trophy.
The Black Cats are expected to make widespread changes for that game, with Ross insisting the full focus of the club remains on winning promotion back to the Championship this season.
Ross added: “Tuesday for me is an irrelevance right now, simply because the competition pales into insignificance compared to what we need to concentrate and focus on this year.
“Right now my thoughts are dominated by the fact that I have taken charge of a team that has produced that type of performance.”